(Adeline) Virginia Woolf (1882-1941), novelist and critic, was born on 25 January 1882 in London, the second daughter of (Sir) Leslie Stephen. Too delicate for the rigours of regular school, she spent her childhood at her family's London house in Hyde Park Gate and country home at St. Ives in Cornwall. Her mother's death in 1895 precipitated the first of the nervous breakdowns which punctuated her life. Her father's death in 1904 was followed by another, but that was also the year of her first published work. After this Virginia, together with her sister Vanessa and her brother Adrian, settled in Gordon Square where they collected round them a group of brilliant young men whom their elder brother Thoby had got to know at Cambridge; notably Roger Fry, J. M. (later Lord) Keynes, Lytton Strachey, E. M. Forster, Leonard Woolf, and Clive Bell. Thus was inaugurated 'the Bloomsbury group'.
In 1912 she married Leonard Sidney Woolf (1880-1969). In 1914 she had another serious breakdown, and although after a year she recovered, for the rest of her life her husband saw to it that she lived very quietly. They lived partly in London and partly in Sussex, where in 1919 they purchased at Monks House, at Rodmell, near Lewes, East Sussex. It was during this period that her chief work was done and her fame established. Of her novels, Voyage Out appeared in 1915, Night and Day in 1919. They were in a relatively traditional form. Jacob's Room, in which Virginia Woolf's characteristic manner first fully revealed itself, came out in 1922, Mrs. Dalloway in 1925, To the Lighthouse in 1927, The Waves in 1931, and The Years in 1937. She also published two fantasies: Orlando (1928) and Flush (1933); two books of critical and biographical essays, The Common Reader (first series, 1925, second series, 1932); a biography of Roger Fry (1940), and two gracefully written feminist pamphlets, A Room of One's Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938). She also took an active part in the management of the Hogarth Press which was founded by her and her husband in 1917.
In 1939 the Woolfs moved to Mecklenburgh Square where they remained until the bombing of 1940, after which they retired to Rodmell. There in 1941 Virginia Woolf's nervous system suffered its final collapse under the strain of the war, and she drowned herself on 28 March.
(Based on the article by David Cecil in Dictionary of National Biography 1941-50, first published in 1959.)